A Great Halloween Read

ImageThe Pull vol 2: Home is Where the Monsters Are is live on Amazon Kindle today! This book was started in 1998, 4 years after I began work on The Pull series. This has always been my favorite entry in the saga and its even more jam packed with action, mystery and excitement than the first one. Epic battles between colorful heroes? Check. A monster so scary even fearless canine warrior Blitz runs away from it? Check. Magic? Romance? Motorcycle chases? It’s got all that and a heck of a lot more. Pick up a copy of Home is Where the Monsters Are (only $2.99) and join in on the fun.

AND between now and Halloween, the first book in the series, The Pull, is available for download ABSOLUTELY FREE!!! You have no excuse not to get in on this action! Unless you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle-capable device, in which case you have a perfectly valid reason. Paperback coming later this week! Yeah! Here are the links to both Home is Where the Monsters Are and The Pull!

Home is Where the Monsters Are on Amazon Kindle!

The Pull for FREE!!!

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A Shy Writer at Dragon*Con

dconmeThere’s a little place that’s been a home away from home for me for the past ten years. It’s less a place, really and more of a state of mind, collection of absurd moments, explosion of untamed expression and geek nirvana all rolled into one. That place is called Dragon*Con. Or Dragon Con if you want to be specific. This year they took out the asterisk. Why was it there to begin with? Because why the hell not. Such is the philosophy of Dragon Con.

I’ve been there seven times in ten years. Three of those years I was lame (or broke depending on how you want to look at it). The other seven years I made the conscious choice to be awesome and throw myself into the storm with nary a plan nor a life preserver nor a care for life nor limb nor liver. This year was my first year attending as a published writer.

My plan was simple. Go there in costume as my protagonist and every time someone asked who I was I’d tell them about my work. I had 500 business cards printed out with my cover art and URL to this very site printed on them. I brought about 50 books in case I could consign some with any of the booksellers in the dealers room. I scheduled (via the handy Dragon Con app) to attend every writer panel I could get my grubby costumed hands on and meet as many people there as possible. Naturally I also brought protein bars, lots of deodorant, $400 cash and a bottle of blueberry vodka to carry in a flask so I wouldn’t have to spend that $400 cash on $10 hotel bar drinks.

I won’t give you all the dirty details because some of them are pretty boring and others are pretty dirty, but here’s the lowdown on what went down downtown in Dragon Con…town:

  • The costume was a great idea. Not only did I get my picture taken a few times – great publicity for The Pull – I also got asked about it a fair bit. That led me into many conversations about who I was, what I did and who the character was. The vast majority of the business cards I gave out landed in pockets this way and not in the trash. I saw another struggling indie author simply handing her cards to every person in the registration line. Do you know what else I saw? A trail of discarded business cards on the sidewalk that could have led Hansel and Gretel into the candy cabin of wasted marketing budget.
  • Going to writing panels was also a great idea. I left some materials on tables in these panels and heard some good advice from successful fantasy and YA authors, but the real prize was the opportunity to talk to other authors like me who were taking steps on their road to getting their work out there. I met fantasy authors, horror authors, comic authors and even a lesbian bondage erotica author from Ireland. All of them were very cool people who I hope to meet again.
  • Trying to get my book consigned by booksellers? Not such a great idea. I figured it was a long shot but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of bungholery I received from vendors telling me with their lips that they weren’t interested and telling me with their eyes to go die in a fire. Getting your book carried by retailers in real life is hard. Getting your book carried by retailers during a con is a hell of a lot harder. Plus most of them were from out of state and didn’t want any more stock than what they currently had. Fair enough. Best of luck to them.
  • I learned that the best way to talk to guest writers themselves is to go to readings. Often it’ll just be you and a handful of other fans shooting the breeze with one of their favorite authors. Hell, even if you don’t know the author it’s still a good way to glean some insight from someone with experience in the industry.

Now keep in mind I did all of this as an introvert with lifelong social anxiety and a complete lack of understanding of the language of small talk. It just so happens, however, that I am also an introvert with lifelong social anxiety, a complete lack of understanding of the language of small talk AND A COMPLETE UNWILLINGNESS TO LET MYSELF CHICKEN OUT AND BE ANYTHING LESS BUT AWESOME. I realized early on that I was among people with similar passions to my own, so an easy icebreaker was always within reach. Inside of writer panels my secret weapon was, “So what do you write?” Outside of writer panels it was, “So what are you here for?” Sometimes I got the blank stare, but more often than not people were excited to share their interests with me and listen to mine.

This experience has given me a great amount of encouragement and more than a little bit of gumption to go back out there and bring my masked, writin’ self to every little (or big) convention, seminar and meeting of writers and fantasy/sci-fi fans I can possibly attend. It’ll be like I’m a touring musician except I’ll be lugging books around instead of an expensive PA system. At best I’ll successfully market myself as a writer. At worst I’ll have a hell of a good time.

Dragon Con 2014, get your beautifully weird behind over here so I can keep this crazy train rolling.

Sneak Peek: The Pull Book 2: Home is Where the Monsters Are

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Below is a sneak peek at the upcoming second entry in The Pull series, Home is Where the Monsters Are. The book is due in the fall. The first book, The Pull is currently available on all major digital platforms as well as in Athens bookstores.

Prologue  

This world we live in is a strange one. The last year of my life was the strangest yet but I somehow know it only scratched the surface. Metal demons, a boy with no memory, a handful of young upstarts successfully standing against the most powerful man in America – perhaps the world.

Amazing things have happened to me since I met that masked boy with the green eyes and the pull inside of him. Amazing things have happened and I know without a doubt that amazing things are yet to come. Beautiful things. Terrible things. I know this because I dream about them.

Sometimes I wake up and remember. Other times I don’t, and carry with me the vague sense that something rich and powerful and ageless is stirring and we are all a part of it. That ageless power is what we call fate. It is more aware than we think, however. It calls to us. It directs us. It pulls us.

I don’t yet know where it is pulling him. I know that question haunts him every day as The Pull grows stronger and louder and more insistent. It pulled him to Atlanta, and there he found other heroes and stood with them against monsters both real and figurative. The monsters without and the monsters within. Some were defeated. Others still attempt to claw their way out from within each of them. I feel that one of them in particular will soon come to face the monster within herself, and the others may suffer for it.

They are my friends and yet they feel like strangers to me. They feel like pictures in a book or words from a poem. I feel that way about myself sometimes too. There are things down that road coming for me as well. Will I become a hero like them? Or will I succumb to my own monsters, and fall before my own purple fire?

I’ve played a part in this story and I have parts yet to play but for now these chapters belong to them. Four heroes, each with a pull of their own. Each has a destiny and a monster to overcome. Each has a weapon they hold close and a dream of a future they will fight for. Without each other, I have no doubt that each of them would fall, broken and alone. Yet together they stand strong. Together they will change the world. In fact they’ve already begun to do so.

My name is Patricia. Like my brother, I sleep now. Like him, when I sleep I see the world for what it really is. I see the story of humanity. There will be loss in this tale; but there will also be triumph. I close my eyes…and turn the page.

Look for Home is Where the Monsters Are, Fall 2013.

How Pain Can Lead to Wonder

ImageI’ve insinuated during this blog that my high school experience wasn’t easy. That’s putting it lightly. In fact it was the hardest four years of my life. Social anxiety prevented me from talking to anyone for fear of making them not like me. That fact, in turn made them not like me. By the time my junior and senior years came around I was simply known as the silent kid and any attempt I made to make friends was laughed down or looked at with mistrust because I was trying to step outside of my prescribed role, and in high school roles are everything.

Because I couldn’t have friends in the real world (or at least told myself I couldn’t), I resorted to creating friends in my head. First and foremost was a big sister character who was tough, funny, protective and a wise-ass who could love me even though I was quiet. She needed a face, so I looked around at my classmates and saw a tall striking blonde who looked like she was always ready to kick someone’s butt. That became Melissa Moonbeam.

Next I needed a brother character who would be the thinker of the group. He was intelligent and philosophical but also kind and with a dry sense of humor. That became Jason Dredd. There was no one around me who was quite like Jason at the time, so I composited a middle school friend named Damien (my first African American friend) and my real life brother Andy.

I realized then that I was missing an important element to this group: a love interest. I needed someone who would react to my character (more on that in a bit) with kindness, understanding, encouragement and warmth. It just so happened I had an enormous crush on a girl I barely knew at the time. That crush developed because of one instance of kindness showed to me after I had embarrassingly goofed up during a mandatory school play. Because she had shown that element of kindness I needed I took her face and her name and combined it with the warmth and understanding I wanted in a character it would always give me butterflies to be around. In that way, Stacy Cross was born.

Now there was one thing developing during all of this that I’ve neglected to mention. I was assembling that “ideal” circle of friends around me, but during the course of it I was also creating a fictional character for myself. It wasn’t the ideal me, for this version of me had flaws as well, but it was a me I could respect during a time I found it very difficult to respect the real thing. When I looked into my mind’s eye I stopped seeing myself and began to see Nick.

I mistrusted my own identity, so Nick was a character with no identity and no last name. I was skinny and weak, so Nick was skinny but could still kick ass. I didn’t care for my face, so Nick wore a mask. I was uncertain about what I was meant to do with my life, so Nick followed a Pull towards a destiny he neither knew nor trusted. In ways Nick was stronger; in ways Nick was more broken; but he was always quintessentially me even when I didn’t want to admit it.

There were other elements that sprung up around these characters. I wanted a constant companion so a dog named Blitz was born. I felt that teenage life presented an ever-present adversary for me and always whispered in my ear that I would never be strong enough, so an unstoppable monster named The Whisper came to life to unceasingly torment Nick.

These characters were born to give me comfort. When I sat in the back of a classroom struggling with my schoolwork, Melissa, Jason and the others comforted me and made me laugh. When I felt bullied or threatened, a scene would play out in my mind where Nick battled The Whisper and always held his own – or his friends joined him and battled the threat along side him.

These characters soon grew beyond mere comforting mechanisms and began to have lives of their own. In bed at night dreading what the next day would bring, I’d suddenly find a scene playing out in my mind. I’d see Nick and Melissa arguing over something. At first I wouldn’t be sure what, but like wiping the fog away from a window soon I knew. I knew what they argued about and what caused it and what that fight led to and how Stacy and Jason felt about it and that The Whisper was watching the whole time and that Blitz the dog was curled up on the couch oblivious to it all.

My subconscious took these characters from my grasp – maybe borrowed is a better word – and brought them to life. As if glimpsing a movie or a TV show, I watched the entire story of their lives, from Nick waking up alone in the woods with a sword in his hand to the fateful battle atop the *omitted for spoilers*. I gasped when Jason defeated Raven atop a factory in New Orleans. I grinned in triumph when Melissa took to her motorcycle and decided to face her past for the sake of her friends. I wept tears of loss when characters died and screamed in frustration when The Whisper showed up at the wrong time and just couldn’t be beaten.

My conscious mind created fantastical versions of the friends I truly wanted, and my subconscious mind pulled a life – a story for them to live through – from the ether. I didn’t intend to create the story of The Pull, and yet it happened. What I did decide to do, though, was grab a notepad in my parents’ basement in 1994 and begin writing those scenes down.

The story of the process of shaping The Pull into a novel is best left for another time, but I wanted to share that because I think its important for us to realize that even the worst times in our life can give birth to something beautiful. I’ll never call The Pull “the greatest story ever told” but it is my greatest story because it is the one my heart gave me when I needed it most. I share it in hopes that it may be able to give a bit of comfort to those in pain in the same way it did to me. It’s an adventure story. It’s a popcorn tale, but it just so happens to be one about finding your true value in a time when nothing is certain.

That value is always there to be found. Sometimes we need monsters to fight, journeys to take and friends to take it with us, but I truly believe that at the end of our own Pull, something beautiful is always waiting.

The Pull Costume for Dragon*Con 2013

ImageCosplaying as Nick from The Pull at Dragon*Con this year. I’d say its coming along nicely. Have any of you ever cosplayed as characters from your original fiction before?

Writer + Gamer = ?

I was a gamer before I became a writer. In fact, I was a gamer before I got out of the fifth grade, before I hit puberty, before I got my first job and waaaay before I lost my virginity (connection there? who can say). Zelda and Final Fantasy and Castlevania provided food for my imagination in a way that only the adventure cartoons of the early 80’s had before. It was one thing to get lost in a world on a screen or on a page; it was another thing entirely to get lost in a world YOU controlled. As a gamer, I wasn’t just observing an adventure play out. I WAS the adventurer.

Between that and the He-Mans and Thundercats and G.I.Joes I grew up with, you can say I developed a bit of a hero complex. He-Man saved the world, Link saved the world, Simon Belmont saved the world. What’s the message there? Cool guys save the world.

After many childhood years of swinging a wooden sword around by the creek near my house, dodging poison ivy instead of wizards and copperheads instead of dragons, I realized that while I wasn’t a world-saving hero in real life, I sure as hell had become one in my imagination. Not enough adventure in the real world? All I had to do was open the pages of my mind, wrap myself in a warm mental blanket and become whatever hero I wanted to be.

In my mind, not only was I a hero, but all of my friends were. Smartest kid at school Brian suddenly became super engineer Brian who built alien-fighting mecha-suits for a team of superheroes. Funny guy Jay became Speed Demon Jay, a crime fighter whose super speed was almost as quick as his wit. My mom even got in on the action, monitoring the police-band radio to let her crime-fighting son and his super-powered friends know where danger was soon to strike.

Though my head was a vast repository of dreams and fantasies, even it couldn’t contain all of the soul-stirring input it was getting from the games I was playing, the shows I was watching and the random oddball ideas I would have while knee-deep in creek water and in desperate need of a tetanus shot.

So what is a boy overflowing with imagination to do? In my case, he put pen to paper and began writing those dreams down. What became an amorphous hero fantasy suddenly became a character, a quest and an antagonist. (For The Pull fans, those were Nick, The Pull, and The Whisper. Yes I started writing The Pull when I was FOURTEEN! WTF)

So a dreamer (let’s be honest, that came first because once a dreamer always a dreamer) became a gamer who became a writer.  And then a little game came around that pushed that writer into new grounds of imagination:

That game was Final Fantasy VI. Those of you who are not gamers are probably saying “Bubba Wubbawuh What?” Just bear with me. Final Fantasy VI is the story of Terra, a girl with a mysterious past and mysterious powers who was born to be a hero, but doesn’t want to be one. Joining her on her quest of discovery was Locke, the thief with a secret heartache driving him to recklessness, Edgar the handsome prince who loves his inventions more than he loves ruling a kingdom, and Gau, a child raised in the wild because his father branded him a monster when his mother died in childbirth.

These were heroes. They had adventures. They saved the world (or tried to); yet there was something else here, an element to adventure I had never explored before. That element was loss. Terra mourned the normal life she could never have because of her birthright. Locke was a broken man due to the tragic loss of his first and only love. Gau was a child without a family and Edgar was a man with endless wealth and respect, yet a gaping hole in his heart because he could never have the life HE wanted.

Suddenly I knew heroes didn’t just save the world. Sometimes heroes suffered. Sometimes they cried and sometimes they lost things that were important to them. Sometimes they even died along the way. Adventures weren’t just about saving the day and conquering monsters, they were about enduring suffering as well. They were about being broken inside, hurt and afraid, yet still doing what you had to do to help those around you.

Through that realization I came to another epiphany. The world I was creating, the protagonist I was following was a reflection of me. This much I already knew; but what I HADN’T known up to that point was that Nick wasn’t a reflection of me because he wanted to save the world. He was a reflection of me because he was broken. He suffered. He hurt. He cried and lost and sometimes made terrible decisions and hurt those he loved because of it. The Whisper wasn’t just a demon following the hero in my story, he was the big scary world that I didn’t feel like I fit into. He was the bully that called me faggot and the parent who yelled and the girl I had a crush on who thought I was a geek.

A video game taught me this. A collection of pixels and sprites and code taught me this, and yet it wasn’t just that. It was a story. It was an adventure with consequences and meaning. In the end, it became a life lesson learned through my awkward teenage hands on a plastic controller.

See gaming isn’t just about high scores and shooting things and conquering the last boss faster than your friend. Gaming is about stories in the same way that books are, or movies or television or any other medium. Gaming is about adventure and empathy and learning lessons sometimes hard to learn within the rigid confines of our home life, especially for a child.

I’d venture to say that gaming can foster a writer’s mind and imagination just as much as books can. Sure, I had a book in my hand almost as often as I had a controller, but it was those worlds rendered in pixels where my imagination became my drive to tell a story.

I’m still that kid waving his sword around in a creek full of poison ivy, snakes and scraped knees…and dragons. Now, however, I don’t keep those adventures in those woods or in my head. I tell them. I tell them and, in some very real way, I live them.

As a writer, I want to inspire you the way other writers, storytellers and game developers inspired me. I hope you read The Pull or Feather in the Stream or any other work I create and immediately want to go create a world of your own. I hope you read The Pull and then go run to the creek, swing a wooden sword and then run back home and start your own adventure.

Intro to Rob’s Blog 101

Howdy there, lords, ladies and the occasional odd hyper-intelligent cat out there (because let’s be honest, if a house pet were to develop hyper-intelligence it would like be a cat…and they would likely be evil).  I just want to take a moment to greet the world like a newborn babe and start the scream that tells you all I’m here.  I’M HERE!!!

So who the hell am I?  I’m just a boy in a man’s body (though some would say that’s debatable) who happens to be one of those people that occasionally puts his/her fingers on a keyboard and writes all of the strange ideas she/he has rolling around in his/her/its head.  So I’m a writer.  I could have just said that, but then I wouldn’t be much of a writer, would I?

So welcome to my bloggy-blog, where I will likely talk about the fine art of storytelling, wax philosophical about life and how it can be like a Neverending Story itself [insert 1984 Limahl theme song here] and occasionally go off on a gamer/serialized TV watcher/general geek tangent.

So welcome!  Grab a drink, kick your shoes off and prepare to have some fun.